By Deb Murphy
The unintended consequences of some Inyo County short-term rental ordinances came back to bite the Board of Supervisors at yesterday’s meeting.
Now that the ordinances have been in place for more than a year, the Board and Planning Department will focus on options to fix those consequences.
Planning Director Cathreen Richards ran through some of the consequences and on-going issues.
County-wide housing shortage: Some short-term rentals were, at one time, rented long-term, but the numbers don’t measure up to other factors that have resulted in the County’s housing shortage. In other words, if the County outlawed “Airbnb’s,” there still wouldn’t be enough housing to meet current needs.
Short-term rentals are not allowed in multi-family zones so as not to impact the affordable housing inventory.
Currently, yurts, trailers and RVs do not constitute legal short-term rentals. A Darwin resident questioned that prohibition. Rental of an RV on her property on a short-term basis was an important income source and no issues had been raised by neighbors. After a discussion of solutions, Richards suggested a zoning change classifying the area as a campground, with the community’s okay, would solve that problem.
Rumors that speculators are buying up properties for the sole purpose of renting them on a short-term basis could not be verified.
The Board chose to use the Conditional Use Permit process, rather than licensing, because CUPs involve community input. However, once a property has a CUP for a specific use, it’s very hard to take that CUP away. Licenses can be pulled much more easily. Currently Inyo County does not require business licenses. But, Richards suggested a format similar to cannabis operations requiring both a CUP and a license.
Initially, the Board thought requiring a hosted permit before a non-hosted permit could be issued would solve a lot of problems. It didn’t. Some hosted permits have accompanying non-hosted permits on units miles away from the hosted unit.
The Supervisors zeroed in on beefing up enforcement and some form of signage with contact information to handle immediate complaints. To resolve the hosted/non-hosted issue, Supervisor Matt Kingsley, with the agreement of most of the board, suggested non-hosted units had to be on the same or an adjacent lot.
“We knew we’d have to do some clean-up” on the ordinances, Chairman Rick Pucci admitted.
The Board directed staff to come back with options to resolve the major issues.